England is known for its pretty villages and finding the ultimate frozen-in-time picturesque village has become quite a popular pastime – especially for those looking to escape the city smog.
If you’re looking for a slice of your very own dreamy rural perfection then here is our choice for the best and most beautiful villages to visit in England…
1. Polperro, Cornwall – one of the most picturesque villages in England
This picturesque village on the edge of a harbour was voted the prettiest village in Cornwall. Meander through the narrow lanes, see the unique and sometimes weird stores, take a boat trip out to one of the nearby islands and stop for a drink in one of the small pubs.
There is a heritage museum about the fishing and smuggling that has kept this village alive. Walk along the coast or along the river estuary which runs through the village for a particularly scenic walk.
Our own trip to Polperro…
2. Castleton, Peak District National Park – one of the best and most loved villages in England
Dating back to the 11th century this popular (and sometimes crowded in summer) village has many attractions in and around it. Known as the “Gem of the Peaks” here you can visit Peveril Castle, the Odin Mine or one of the four Castleton underground caves.
The surrounding rolling hills which surround the village on three sides can be explored along the numerous walking paths and there are many holiday cottages to stay in so you can stretch out your stay a little longer.
3. Castle Combe, Wiltshire – often hailed as the most beautiful village in England
Take a walk from Market Cross towards the By Brook through this village which is often called the prettiest village in England. Overlooking the village are the remains of an ancient castle fort.
The lanes are lined with 100-year-old typical Cotswold houses where the artisans lived when the village was a major cog in the wool industry back in the Middle Ages.
The quaint English village has starred in films like Doctor Doolittle, Stardust and The Wolf Man. The wild animals love this village as much as tourists as it is in a conservation area and both the natural countryside and the buildings are protected by law.
4. Bibury, The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire – a quaint and gorgeous gem
Described by 19th-century artist-writer William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England” the narrow high street leads down to the River Coln where there is a cute river bridge.
The pretty Cotswold village is the typical village of the picture-perfect area, here you can see Arlington Row with weaver’s cottages from the 17th century and the Bibury Trout Farm or the village church of St. Mary.
The remains of a hillside fort overlooks the village and the river splits the village in half, the river is full of trout and the river meadow, Rack Island is populated only by wildlife.
5. Clovelly, Devon – a stunning village perched high on a cliff
This is a private village with cobbled streets and no motorized vehicles along the high street. The village is built in a cleft of a steep cliff, surrounded by dense woodlands sloping down to the sea.
The narrow lanes are lined with whitewashed cottages each adorned with colorful window boxes.
Donkeys carry goods up the hills and sledges bring them down but wherever you are there are breathtaking views of the sea. As a private village, there is an entrance fee to the village which is preserved meticulously by traditional craftsmen. Find some last-minute cottages for an idyllic summer break.
6. Shere, Surrey – the gorgeous village made famous by the film ‘The Holiday’ and ‘Bridget Jones’
A small village tucked deep in the heart of Surrey. Again, one of our picks features a level of photogenic beauty that will capture your imagination as quickly as it did for the producers of the Holiday and Bridget Jones, both of which were filmed here.
If describing twee British ‘romcoms’ doesn’t give you an idea as to what it’s all about… It has a couple of pubs, a stream that winds through the village, and numerous chintzy tearooms.
If you want a saunter, taking in a real village feel in one of the most beautiful villages in Surrey, then stop by, you’ll be glad you did.
7. Amberley, West Sussex – one of the cutest villages in England
One of the beautiful downland villages situated between the Downs, Amberley Mount, the South Down Way, and the River Arun. The river often floods in the winter and is responsible for the moist ground and nearby swamplands.
The village castle is now a hotel and behind it is the Amberley Swamp. Visit the Amberley Working Museum to see antique agricultural tools and industrial machinery,
The museum also hosts an annual beer festival. For a local pint visit the Black Horse to see what the village houses look like from the inside. From the outside, the homes in the village are mostly thatched roofed with thick stone walls and all framed by colorful flower beds.
8. Whitby – the place that’s said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The setting for one of the most famous thrillers of all time, Whitby promises a little bit of everything. The village is the primary setting for Bram Stokers Dracula and has beauty with a touch of bleak North Sea ruggedness all wrapped into one, easy to visit, package.
If you are into titillation, indulge your inner paranormal vibe by visiting Whitby Abbey, where gothic ruins jut like broken teeth from the hillside overlooking the village, or just take a ghost tour.
Alternatively, if you are a little more straight-laced just pop by for fish and chips at the harbour or walk the dog and go shell collecting on the beach. The wind from the North Sea can have a bit of an edge, so take a coat…thank me later!
9. Mousehole, Cornwall – a pretty village which attracts discerning tourists
A sleepy but impossibly pretty fishing port and village located not too far from Penzance, Cornwall. With a cute and quirky name and boats which gently sway in the salty breeze this place is postcard-pretty.
It’s also steeped in history – it was sacked by the Spaniards1595 and a hundred years ago it was a bustling port. Today it’s still filled with an old-world charm and it tends to attract discerning visitors.
10. Lamberhurst, Kent – a charming village home to a fairytale castle
The village is home to Scotney Castle, surrounded by a moat, it is one of the most romantic castles in England. Here you can also see the Sprivers Horsmonden 18th century garden where there is a walk through the woodlands.
There are also several historic houses like the Georgian Finchcock house with a collection of keyboard instruments and the Victorian Ladham House. Get out into the stunning countryside and explore the Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest or the Lamberhurst Vineyard.
11. Haworth, West Yorkshire – a stunning village on the edge of Bronte country
Enter the Bronte country on the edge of the Pennine moors with wide-open expanses of fields. Take the steam train to the village and visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum where the sisters once lived. Along the cobbled high street are interesting stores, pubs and teashops housed in historic buildings.
The village hosts many events like the 1940’s weekend. Nearby walk along the country paths to feel like you are in Wuthering Heights, also visit the Bronte Waterfalls and Top Withens.
12. Ambleside, Lake District, Cumbria – a beautiful and traditional English village
Just outside the village of Ambleside is Stock Ghyll Force, a 21-meter high waterfall that is surrounded by daffodils in the spring. The water from the River Rothay flows into the village under the Bridge House and on to 12 watermills in the village.
A walk down the high street of the village will give you a view of some of the mills and the countryside which can be seen over the rooftops.
13. Rye, East Sussex – a former smuggler’s village turned into a gorgeous tranquil gem
A gorgeous corner of South East England this East Sussex gem is as postcard-perfect as pretty villages come.
It has a colourful past filled with smuggling and maritime conflict but today it’s a much more peaceful place and today visitors come for a labyrinth of winding streets and passageways, quirky shops, nature walks, charming traditional pubs, and medieval inns and cafes. All in all a real delight, especially for stressed-out Londoners!
14. Flatford, Suffolk – a pretty village which was the inspiration for Constable’s famous painting
Quaint Flatford is close to East Bergholt in Suffolk and is best known for the 18th century Flatford Mill, Willy Lott’s Cottage (featured in the famous Constable’s painting “The Hay Wain”), the Granary Barn and Bridge Cottage. The thatched roof cottages are framed by greenery and the 16th century Bridge Cottage greets you as you arrive and cross over the picture-perfect wooden bridge.
Flatford’s oldest building is the 15th century Medieval Hall House. John Constable, one of the UK’s old masters immortalized the pretty hamlet in his paintings.
15. Aylesford, Kent – a beautiful village filled with historically important buildings
Kent – otherwise known as the Garden of England – has some serious contenders for the most beautiful village in England but definitely up there as the picturesque village of Aylesford.
Located on the River Medway, the large but very pretty community is accessed through an impressive 14th-century medieval five-arched bridge.
The village is filled with interesting and historic buildings including 17th-century thatched barns and Aylesford Priory which was built in 1242 when the first Carmelites arrived from Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. It’s also home to the finest intact medieval courtyards in England.
16. Turville, Buckinghamshire – home to the ‘Vicar of Dibley’ church
Soft, golden light, slanty roofed timber frame cottages bedecked with hanging baskets, and greenery, and countryside for miles around.
If you want ‘busy’ Turville won’t be the place to get it, But then it’s a tiny and very beautiful village so why would you? It has one (proper country) pub, a tiny ‘high street’, and the Chilterns on its doorstep.
It sounds perfect. It’s little wonder that it’s been used as a film set for numerous television and movie productions. If you’ve never seen The Vicar of Dibley then don’t worry, because we know you’ll have seen the nearby Cobstone Windmill in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
17. Snowshill Cotswolds – another gorgeous village where Bridget Jones was filmed
The Cotswolds are renowned for being just a bit pleasing on the eye, so it stands to reason that a little village plonked right in the middle should follow suit. Yellow stone cottages at dubious angles and ancient gardens are what you’ll get if you visit Snowshill.
If you are rambling the Cotswolds and want a country pint it’s ideal, or if it’s a rainy day, pop into Snowshill Manor, run by the national trust. You can potter around the gardens or head inside to see a vast collection of trinkets from the past including toys, full suits of armour, and much more.
If you’ve ever watched Bridget Jone’s Diary well certain scenes were filmed here, including the village green and a local house featured as the home of Bridget’s parents.
18. Sydling Saint Nicholas, Dorset – a stunningly picturesque village which winds along the little Sydling Water
Sydling Saint Nicholas located in Dorest is really beautiful, and it comes into its own in the summer months. Now, it’s not the biggest place, and you will be able to see it in a day, but there’s plenty to do.
It’s a perfectly acceptable place to meander around, crossing tiny stone bridges over the chalk stream on which it was founded.
Take in the sights as you wander amongst walls adorned with rose bushes, creepers, and Primrose flowers. Or, if you want a real selfie to be proud of, take a little trip out of town to the huge chalk painting at Cerne Abbas.
19. Lacock, Wiltshire – a village that today looks much like it did 200 years ago
Wiltshire and wizards! If you are a Harry Potter fan then you will already have seen plenty of Lacock. The village is a picture of preservation, with timbered houses and stone cottages galore. So true are the locals to retaining its ‘look’, that even streetlamps and TV aerials are forbidden.
The nearby abbey remains pretty intact and you’ll step over stones and cloisters that have been in situ for the past 800 years. Due to the aura of the place, it has been used to film a variety of well-known productions.
Its value as a tourist town has gone up slightly in recent years as a result, but it still retains a certain feeling of quiet sleepiness.
20. Seahouses – a large village set on the beautiful Northumberland Coast
Being a bit further ‘up North’ Seahouses is a little different both in architecture and style, than some of our other offerings. The Northumberland coast is windswept, bleak, and really quite beautiful, just like this large village nestled on the coast.
The Northumberland coast has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so you just know it’s going to look great. Whatever you do, whether it’s a bracing walk or cycling, get out and enjoy the fresh air.
There are boat trips from the harbour to nearby Farne island, which makes for a fun day out, take your camera, and watch thousands of Puffins as they wheel and dive overhead.
21. Alfriston – a must-visit village located at the foot of the beautiful South Downs
Alfriston sits at the heart of the South Downs, an area known in its own right for natural splendour. For such a small village I was surprised by how much it has going on, with book shops, a couple of small galleries, and the odd tea room or two.
For a quaint place to stay whilst exploring Sussex and the surrounding delights, it is ideally placed. Visit the ‘cathedral of the south downs’ in St Andrew’s church and then head out the back to the Cuckmere River which will take you all the way down to the seven sisters and Cuckmere if are feeling particularly energetic.
22. Port Isaac, Cornwall – a gorgeous village which stars in the TV series Doc Martin
If we had to pick one place that represents British maritime allure, Port Issac would be it. Steep hills, winding streets and a cute harbour will have you breaking out into a sea shanty before you can blink.
For a bit of a laugh, see if you can find ‘Squeezy Belly Alley’, have a wander through and then ask yourself if that last Cornish cream tea was really worth it.
Slate Cottages stand guard over the crystal waters beneath and there are numerous eateries for you to sample some of the locally caught fare as you mull over its style.
If things look familiar it’s because it’s a popular location for both films and television series, although it’s arguably best known for being the fictional Portwenn from the TV series Doc Martin starring Martin Clunes.
23. Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk – a beautiful and historic harbour small town
Norfolk can be difficult to get to, but that’s great as, provided you are willing to put in the effort, you’ll find this pearl far less busy than some other destinations.
Wells-next-the-Sea (don’t ask us what happened with the ’to’) offers a lot. You can take your time taking in vast sandy shores lined with evergreen pine trees and vivid beach huts, or head down to the quayside which perfectly blends the old with the new.
For those of you with smaller travellers in tow, a fun day out can be had at the harbour. Grab a bucket and line and have a competition to see who can pull in the biggest crab.
If catching them isn’t your idea of fun (the crabs, not your kids), there is a miniature railway nearby, letting you take in the beach views with minimal effort.
24. Beaulieu, New Forest – one of South of England’s top family days out
Beaulieu is like stepping back in time. Its almost like the New Forest has kept it slightly isolated from the rest of the modern world.
The delights of the New Forest aside (which includes rambling walks, wild horses and beautiful woodland), Beaulieu has an aura all of its own… But what would you expect from somewhere whose name literally translates to ‘beautiful place’? It is the jewel in Hampshire’s crown.
The 16th-century high street remains largely unaltered and you don’t have to think very hard to imagine market stalls and street seller hawking their wares… because they still do, with a weekly farmer and craft market as a standard fixture.
If it’s a rainy day there is a world-famous motor museum on the outskirts of the village, which is a great way to pass an afternoon. Also don’t miss the Palace House and Gardens, Beaulieu Abbey, and World of Top Gear.
25. Mevagissey, Cornwall – an attractive harbourside village which still has a working harbour
The south coast of the UK generally enjoys more than the average amount of sunshine, which is handy as when the sun is out Mevagissey absolutely sparkles.
Drift along its winding cobbled streets and you’ll eventually find your way to a charming little harbour where you can watch the boats, have a foamy pint and watch the world go by.
Slate-roofed fisherman’s cottages and a real community feel are what make this place feel magical. If it’s particularly warm and you want to get your feet wet (…and sandy, shoes off when you get in!) go for a paddle at Portmellon beach, where you’ll find a lovely beach and crystal clear water.
26. Grasmere, Cumbria – one of the Lake District’s finest gems
If you want to wander, lonely as a cloud, then Cumbria is the place to go. Okay, you probably won’t need your sunscreen, but then if it was sunny all the time the lakes surrounding this gorgeous little village wouldn’t be half as stunning.
You are in ‘Wordsworth Country’ here, and if it is good enough to inspire an iconic literary genius then it’s good enough for us. Dark and foreboding stone cottages line streets framed by a backdrop of green hills.
A short evening (or morning) walk will take you to the edge of Grasmere Lake where you’ll be able to get scenic pictures that paint a thousand words.
27. Lynmouth, Devon – a stunning village in England with gorgeous views
Perched high atop the Glen Lyn Gorge, along a particularly beautiful stretch of coastline, is the gorgeous Devon village. Easily one of the most beautiful villages in England Lynmouth is centred around a small and postcard-pretty harbour and straddles the estuary of the East Lyn River.
It’s home to incredible views of the valley as well as a rocky beach, some charming traditional pubs, a quirky independent cinema and a handful of quaint antique shops and cafes.
28. West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
It’s not often you’ll see a village so largely owned by the National Trust, and for them to do that it must be special. As a result of this ownership you are in for a treat.
As historical villages go it is super well maintained. The word we’d use is traditional or maybe immaculate. Wherever you look, West Wycombe has a real authentic vibe so if you want a mixture of delightfully cramped boutiques, bookshops or perhaps a sweet treat there is plenty to tickle your fancy.
Head out of town for a while and visit the theatrical estate of West Wycombe park or head underground and picture some debauchery when you visit the Hell Fire Caves, which were hand-dug and later used for all sorts of shenanigans by the landed gentry!
29, Broadway, Cotswolds – a famous honeycomb-coloured village and beauty spot
Often mentioned as the most beautiful and picturesque village in England is Broadway. This famous small and traditional place in the Cotswolds is filled with tourists during the summer (and the winter too!) all drawn by its reputation for being a Cotswold beauty spot.
The wide long Main Street is lined with traditional honey-comb houses as well as some excellent restaurants, antique shops, and hotels.
Stand-out buildings include The Lygon Arms Hotel a manor house that once hosted both Charles I and Oliver Cromwell and Broadway Tower which is the second-highest point in the Cotswolds so expect plenty of gorgeous views!
30. Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire – steeped in history and often featured in Midsomer Murders
“How did you find ‘the Clumps’?” Fortunately, whilst you may be asked this in any of the local restaurants, of which there are a few, they will, in fact, be referring to the nearby Sinodun Hills, offering a superb nature reserve with over 60 unique species and cracking views.
The village of Dorchester on Thames was, at one point its life, a mecca for travellers on their way north, which is fortunate as it still boasts a number of guesthouses to suit all budgets and even an authentic coach house or two.
This sweet, chocolate box village is surrounded by water on all three of its sides and boasts picturesque cottages, an original abbey and river walks. Again this is another village they may seem a little familiar – it’s been used for filming for MidSummer Murders many times.
When Is The Best Time To Visit England
There is no definitive answer as to when is the best time to visit England. The country experiences a temperate climate, so it really depends on what you are looking for in your holiday.
If you want to experience some of the summer festivals and events, then July and August would be the best time to go. However, if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy more peaceful surroundings, then September or October may be a better option.
England is full of gorgeous villages and towns to explore. If you’re looking for a slice of your very own dreamy rural perfection then here is our choice for the best and most beautiful villages to visit in England.
Whether it’s quaint cottages, rolling hills or an old-fashioned English village that tickles your fancy there are plenty out there waiting to be discovered by you!
Also check out our posts on…
- Places to visit in the United Kingdom
- The best places to visit in the UK in Autumn
- The best places to visit in the UK in Winter
- The most beautiful places to visit in Buckinghamshire
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Becky Moore – Owner, writer and photographer
My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my ex Athens street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Borneo, Finland, Greece, Berlin, Laos, California and the surreal and beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.
I’ve been quoted in Forbes, National Geographic, The Times, Yahoo Travel, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Thrillist, British Airways Magazine, Entrepreneur, express.co.uk, Wanderlust, Telegraph Travel, Daily Mail and metro.co.uk. Find me on Linkedin or Facebook.